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Archive for the ‘Newport Folk Festival’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SHAKEY GRAVES-Live at Newport Folk Festival (July 28, 2018).

I really only know Shakey Graves (Alejandro Rose-Garcia) from NPR Music.  I enjoyed his Tiny Desk and have thought he’d be a fun folk rocker to see live.  He’s got a raspy voice and is not afraid to go loud as needed.  He says that with this show, he has now played all four stages at Newport.

He’s going to “Kick this off with a waltz that I wrote years ago that has sadly become more relevant every year I’ve played it.  It’s about not listening to people and listening to people at the same time.  What?  How’s that possible?  It’s called ‘Word of Mouth.'”

This song is just him on his guitar with a kick drum and tambourine (not sure if he’s doing the percussion, but I assume he is).  Midway through, he kicks in the distortion for a loud middle section.  The song is long, about 7 minutes, and in the middle, he says, “And if you can’t handle shit here in the United States you better get the fuck out.  That’s terrible advice, honestly.  You gotta stand your ground and hear yourself out.”

The ending feedback segues into “Foot of Your Bed.”  A full band has evidently joined him as there is now a pedal steel guitar, drums, and a harp (?!).  It’s a quiet song which they segue into the much louder “Cops and Robbers.”

“The Perfect Parts” opens with a complex drum part and then a stomping clap-along with a big dah dah dah dah chorus (that he gets everyone to sing along with).

“Big Bad Wolf” opens with some cool guitar sounds before turning into a song that builds nicely.  “Mansion Door” is my favorite song of the set.  It builds wonderfully with Graves’ rough voice totally soaring. It’s followed by “Can’t Wake Up” which he says is about a “sleepy person, oh so sleepy.  No, it’s about changing things that you’re capable of changing even if they bring you distress.”

“Dining Alone” is the theme song of this fake person Garth Nazarth (all of his songs are about this fictional guy).  Garth hates his job, but all he does is fantasize instead of changing any aspect of it.”  Continuing with the downer aspect is “Counting Sheep.”  He says that the whole new album is about suicide “oh my gosh, not that.”  He says he was never suicidal, but he has gotten letters from people who have mentioned some intense feelings.  So he encoded “don’t die” messages throughout the record.  “Counting Sheep” is “a straightforward ‘don’t die’ song.  If you need a hug, come find me, I’ll give you a hug.”

The band leaves after the rocking “Excuses.”  It’s another great song from this show.

The final two songs are solo renditions of “Bully’s Lament” and “Roll the Bones.”  There’s some great rocking guitar on “Roll the Bones.”  I feel like the energy that Graves creates is what really makes his live shows special.  I hope he plays the Festival this year.

SET LIST:

  • “Word Of Mouth”
  • “Foot Of Your Bed”
  • “Cops And Robbers”
  • “The Perfect Parts”
  • “Big Bad Wolf”
  • “Mansion Door”
  • “Dining Alone”
  • “Counting Sheep”
  • “Excuses”
  • “Bully’s Lament”
  • “Roll The Bones”.

[READ: January 19, 2019] “Do Not Stop”

For some reason I thought that Salvator Scibona was an author I really liked and I was puzzled that I didn’t like this story very much.  Then I figured out that Scibona is not who I was thinking of at all, and that the last story I read by him I didn’t really enjoy that much either.

The first sentence sums up the story pretty well: “Okinawa was a fever dream of mosquitoes and Falstaff beer.”

The whole story, which is a Vietnam war story, is also a confusing fever dream that seems endless.

Vollie is getting shitfaced, but the Marine Corp rule was that they couldn’t put Vollie on the plane to deploy if he was too drunk to walk unassisted.  As he leaves the bar he is assaulted by people selling things, and advertising jingles just compound the alcohol in his head. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JEN CLOHER-Live at Newport Folk Festival (July 29, 2018).

Even though it was half a year ago, NPR is still posting some shows from the Newport Folk Festival Festival.  This one is kind of hard to find, since it’s not with the other Newport Folk Festival shows, so here’s the link.

Jen Cloher is a great Australian singer-songwriter/punk.  I have seen her live twice. Once opening for Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile and once on her own.  She is dynamic and brash, funny and clever and a great frontwoman.

When she opened for Kurt & Courtney, she was a solo artist, but when I saw her headline, she had a full band (the same line-up as Newport).  And her set rocked.

The setlist she played for Newport was a truncated version of the full set list she played for us.  But she also played two different songs.  The first was “David Bowie Eyes” and “Toothless Tiger.”

She opened both sets with “Regional Echo” and “Forgot Myself” (oh god, oh god, oh god).  The album is really good, but her lives show packs more punch.  Her band is great: Jen’s wife, Courtney Barnett, on electric guitar and Bones Sloane from Courtney’s band on bass plus the amazing kick ass drummer Jen Sholakis.

The “new song” is actually an old song, “David Bowie Eyes” which she says is “for anyone who likes Patti Smith..”  It’s a sweet poppy number with (of course) interesting lyrics:

She got David Bowie eyes
One is green and one is blue
I’m sure one of his is brown
But what can I do?
Come on say you’ll be
Mapplethorpe to my Patti
Just kids living on a shoestring dream

It’s followed by “Sensory Memory” one of my favorite songs of hers.  The melody is wonderful and the lyrics are so bittersweet.  After “Shoegazers” which has some great noisy soloing from Courtney, comes “Toothless Tiger” the other “new” song (which is also old, both of those songs are from her 2013 record).  It’s more on the snarky side, with some backing vocals from Courtney.

I love “Analysis Paralysis” for the lyrics (of course)–kangaroos in the pool–but also for Courtney’s wailing guitar solo.

When we saw Kurt & Courtney, they played Jen’s “Fear is Like a Forest” and it was fun to hear it live.  When I saw Jen, like in this version, it was a very different, rocking song and Courtney takes a verse or two.  The set ends with Cloher’s awesome anthem “Strong Woman,” a great song for these times and for all times.

Cloher may get over shadowed by her famous bandmate, but she is an amazing songwriter/performer herself with all kinds of charisma.

SET LIST:

  • “Regional Echo”
  • “Forgot Myself”
  • “David Bowie Eyes” *
  • “Sensory Memory”
  • “Shoegazers”
  • “Toothless Tiger” *
  • “Analysis Paralysis”
  • “Fear Is Like A Forest”
  • “Strong Woman”

*not played at my show–the songs below were played at my show.

  1. Mount Beauty**
  2. Stone Age Brain **
  3. Great Australian Bite**
  4. Name in Lights**

[READ: January 19, 2019] The League of Lasers

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed Star Scouts (it had been almost two years since I read it).

It helps to have read book 1 to get the full understanding of this story, but this one stands on its own pretty well, too.

The book opens with a one-eyed creature in a cloak firing a blast at earth.  A blast directed at Avani Patel (the hero f book 1).  Avani and her Star Scouts (all aliens except for Avani’s friend Jen) are rocking out in their terrible rock band.  After the song, we see that Mabel the alien is still sniping with earthling Jen (Mabel made friends with Avani and was shocked to learn that Avani had friends back home).  The explosion hits earth, but it’s not a missile, it is a messenger.

The messenger is for Avani.  The handwritten (on lined school paper) note invites her to join the The League of Lasers–a special squadron of the Star Scouts.  How can she say no? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOUNTAIN MAN-“Sewee Sewee” (Field Recordings, February 2, 2012).

Until recently, had I posted this I would have said that Mountain Man features Amelia Meath from Sylvan Esso.  Now I can say that and I can say that Mountain Man, of whom Id never heard, has a new album out.  How about that.

I don’t know much about Mountain Man, but this song is quite pretty.  It opens with someone snarkily commenting “Mountain Man live from the dungeon, take one.”

The song is a beautiful two-minute ballad with wonderful harmonies sand quiet acoustic guitar.  But all focus is on their voices as they intertwine beautifully.

Amelia Meath is the only person I know from this band and I know of her as somewhat goofy, so it’s amazing to see her (looking so young) being very intense while she sings her parts.

The Vermont trio Mountain Man fit an awful lot of moony harmonies into this all-too-brief performance of “Sewee Sewee.” Mountain Man’s three members — Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and Amelia Randall Meath — sang and stared sweetly into each other’s faces.

Then as soon as the song is over Amelia gets very silly again.  I assume it’s her who starts rapping Li’l Mama’s “My Lip Gloss” (“my lipgloss is popping, my lipgloss is cool”) as the camera goes dark.

This Field Recording [Mountain Man: A Choir of Angels] was the second one done at the Newport Folk Festival, and it’s clear they are having fun exploring the abandoned grounds.

As a gaggle of videographers, musicians, industry types and hangers-on stepped gingerly through tall brush to enter a dilapidated section of Fort Adams in Newport, R.I., you couldn’t blame us for feeling like unwitting participants in a horror movie. Standing amid hundred-year-old rubble as the 2011 Newport Folk Festival clattered merrily in the distance, we were either going to capture two breathtaking minutes of music or get eviscerated by maniacs as part of The Newport Witch Project. Thankfully, we made it out with the footage you see above.   If the scene above once seemed destined to devolve into a grisly horror movie, at least we had a choir of angels on hand to escort us into the afterlife.

I haven’t heard their new album but I wonder if their voices still sound amazing together after 8 years apart.

[READ: January 7, 2017] “Honey Bunny”

This is a story about a girl who has left (fled?) Colombia and is now doing and possibly selling cocaine in America.

She is apparently buying her supply from a guy named Paco.  Inexplicably, the coke is cut with all kinds of weird things–plant leaves, bug wings, rabbit fur?

All along she keeps eyeing an orange suitcase in her apartment. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAVID WAX MUSEUM-“Born With a Broken Heart” (Field Recordings, January 12, 2012).

This was the third Field Recording in the series [David Wax Museum: Folk Among The Ruins] and it seems to have started a trend of recording musicians in the ruins at the Newport Folk Festival

The video opens with the band climbing through a broken down house.  Then the music starts with David playing the charango and Suz Slezak clapping.  It’s a catchy fun song with handclaps, wonderful vocal harmonies and oohs.

Two minutes into the song a tenor horn adds some depth and bass to the music, making it sound much bigger.  Around three minutes the whole horn section is playing along with a kind of mariachi feel..

At the end of the song you can hear cheering–presumably for the festival itself and not them, but it seems apt as well.

[READ: November 15, 2017] “The Hotel”

I feel like this is an excerpt.  If it’s not an excerpt than I don’t know what.

It’s basically about a woman who lands at an airport.  She is discombobulated from all of the flights and transfers (which seems unlikely but whatever).  The story starts with no explanation at all as to why the woman has flown from Dublin to New York to Milan.  She is now at a layover in Germany or Switzerland or Austria (the signs are all in German).

She can’t read the signs.  It’s very late. The airport seems to be closing down.  Her next flight is leaving in 5 hours.  She figures she will need to be back at the airport in four.  So instead of camping out at Gate 19, she decides to go to look for a hotel.  By the time she checked in , she would get max three hours sleep.  It’s just not worth it in my opinion, but whatever. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHOEBE BRIDGERS-Live at Newport Folk Festival (July 28, 2018).

I saw Phoebe Bridgers three days after this set at Newport Folk Festival (I had no idea).  She plays five more songs at my show than here (yay, me).

The size of the crowd does’t seem to intimate her in any way and she sounds just as great (and intimate) as she did in the small club where I saw her.

A few songs into her sun-drenched Saturday Newport Folk set, Phoebe Bridgers paused and proclaimed, “I am a puddle of sweat.” It was a one-liner that primed those huddled at the Harbor Stage for the 2018 Slingshot artist’s catalog: details delivered with specificity and a subtle sense of humor.

I will say the one thing about this recording is that I don;t think you can hear all of the percussion as clearly as I could at Asbury Lanes.

The show started much the same as mine did with a beautiful languid version of “Smoke Signals” and a try-to-hold-back-the-tears reading of “Funeral.”

For the next song, “Georgia,” she brought out songwriter Christian Lee Hutson who is “going to help me sing harmonies.”  Whether it was the song itself of Hutson’s addition, but Bridgers’ voice really soars on this song.

Even Bridgers’ stage banter reflected her striking style, mixing straightforward address and astute observation. “This song is about how every time I smoke weed, I remember why I don’t smoke weed,” she said of the plainspoken plea “Demi Moore.”

She continued: “I face plant and my brain is erased for many hours and I think I’m thinking too loud.”

There’s some gorgeous harmonies on the darkly sweet song, “Killer.”  Then she played “Steamroller” solo on the acoustic guitar.

Later, she called “Steamroller,” a devastatingly candid cut from her 2015 EP, Killer, “another dark love song, thanks.”

Introducing Gillian Welch’s song “Everything Is Free” she said. “This is my friend Marshall.  We’re going to sing my favorite song about music streaming ever written.”  I loved hearing this live and it sounds just as solid here.

Up next was a song she did not play at my show.  She welcomed Christian Lee Hutson (playing guitar with Jenny Lewis) and Sharon Silva (from The Wild Reeds) played bass with me for exactly one week and I waited for a really bassist…Emily.  Chris wrote this song for me.”  The chorus goes “”lets get the old band back together again, and there’s even a line, “with Emily on bass, it doesn’t feel the same.”

The crowd reacts strongly, as they should to her awesome song “Motion Sickness.”

Despite its venom, it’s a song that unspools with a sonic ease that feel refreshing, even for an overheated festival audience.

The songs sounds great live and she holds a 17-second note just for kicks.  The sets ends (as did ours) with “Scott Street.”  She says “This is about L.A. where we live;  where it’s hot all the time.”  It’s a quiet song, sounds and represents her music pretty perfectly–quiet, sad, with clever lyrics.

At our show, we got two encores after this, so again, yay for us.  But this is a great example of her live show.

[READ: April 22, 2016] “Playing with Dynamite”

Back in February of 2017, I posted about an essay by George Saunders from 2009 in which he remembers John Updike “Remembering Updike“.  He says that back in 1992:

 It was going to be in Tina Brown’s first issue and they marked this occasion by running two stories contrasting the new writers (Saunders) with the established.  Of course the establishment writer was going to be Updike.  Saunders said he was chagrined because he knew the contrast would go something like this:

Wonderful, established, powerful representative of the Old Guard kicks the butt of the flaky, superficial, crass poseurish New Guy.  Saunders’ story was “Offloading for Mrs. Schwartz.”

I can see why they paired the George Saunders story with this particular Updike story.  Both stories deal with grief and memory loss, although Updike’s does so in a very different way.  On the other hand, their writing styles are so very different that it’s nearly impossible to compare the two stories.

The story begins with an interesting image from childhood: “one aspect of childhood Fanshawe had not expected to return in old age was the mutability of things–the willingness of a chair, say, to become a leggy animal in the corner of his vision.”  But living now “in death’s immediate neighborhood” he allowed that things like that might happen and it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

There is then an episode in Fanshawe’s day when his wife, who was younger and more spry than he, passed him going down the stairs.  She caught her heel on her dress and fell down the stairs.  It was only after all the guests had left that she said to him, “Wasn’t I good, not to tell everybody how you pushed me me?” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JULIA JACKLIN-Live at the Newport Folk Festival (2017).

I saw Julia Jacklin open for First Aid Kit and while I was looking for music by her I found this, her first show at Newport Folk Festival.

This show is a good representation of her live show, except that with when I saw her, she threw in a couple more upbeat songs–this set is a bit monotonous.  Or maybe that’s what an 11M crowd needs.

It’s often a sparse crowd that turns up to see an 11 a.m. set at a music festival — but not so at the Newport Folk Festival. When Julia Jacklin took the stage on Saturday morning, she seemed shocked to be faced with a tent full of attentive onlookers. (If it were any other festival, she pointed out, she’d probably be playing to an audience of four — and four hung-over people, at that.)

She played nine songs, several of which she played when I saw her.

“Hay Plain” is a slow meandering song  it takes almost 4 minutes before the full band kicks in, but when they do it really elevates the song.  ““Lead Light” she played when I saw her.  It has a kind of old school swing to it, almost 50s rock and roll.  The song build and stops several times.

“Cold Caller” is another slow-mover.  Midway through there’s a really cool–and to my mind, much needed–wicked guitar solo.  The backing vocals on “Motherland” mid way through the song perk things up.  She lets her vocals linger more on this one which shows of the power more.

“LA Dream” it is indeed dreamy and sweet and is mostly just her guitar.  “Eastwick” is a cool song that grows faster and louder in a rather slow and deliberate manner. “Coming Of Age” and “Pool Party” are slow brooding song.  “Pool Party” sounds familiar but defies what’s expected from a song with a title like that.

For the last song, “Don’t Let The Kids Win” the band left and it was just her on stage with her guitar.  The lyrics are so good and so well-delivered, it’s a real high point.

So, overall I find her songs to be pretty but a little flat.  She just not quite my thing.  But every time the rest of the band stepped up, the songs were much more fun for me (even when they werent “fun” songs).

To read some lyrics and what it was like to see her in person, check out this post.  That plaid skirt must be a trademark.

[READ: October 1, 2018] “When We Were Happy We Had Other Names”

This story is about death.

It opens in a funeral home, as the director is meeting with the protagonists Jiayu and her husband Chris.  The story is set in the States–Jiayu thinks about how much stranger living in the States would have been for her if it were fifty years earlier–but that’s doesn’t directly impact the story, exactly.

The gut punch of the story comes as we realize–it is mostly alluded to–that their son Evan has killed himself.  Their daughter Naomi is off at college and while she does come home for the funeral, she also cuts off a lot of access to her.

Jiayu and Chris spent a lot of time with grief–they asked if they had done something wrong–Evan had seemed so happy.  But things did have to move along.  Would they buy pumpkins for the holiday?  Christmas trees?  Would anyone notice or care if they didn’t?

But thinking about death was an all-consuming act for Jaiyu.  She wound up creating a spreadsheet of all of the people she knew or had met who have died.  She entered birth and death year as well as cause of death.  She wanted to test her memory, so she didn’t look up anything.  By remembering each person it would prevent them from become generically dead. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKAGES AND AGES-“Divisionary (Do the Right Thing)” (Field Recordings, August 28, 2014).

I really like this song.  I’ve heard several recordings of it.  The studio version, the Tiny Desk Concert, the one with the Northwest Children’s Choir and now this one.

Once again, done during the Newport Folk Festival, this Field Recording [Ages And Ages, Singing An Anthem For (And With) Everyone] corrals a band into a small, unused space. In this case, that space seems to be an unused room.  And in that small room, the band is joined by The Berklee Gospel and Roots Choir.

Bob Boilen says:

I’ve seen many magical collaborations at the Newport Folk Festival over the years, as artists band together and create in the Newport spirit. This particular venture was epic, featuring the strongest anthem of the year — by the Portland band Ages and Ages — and the voices of the Berklee Gospel and Roots Choir.

This song always sounds better with a big chorus of singers.  There’s not much to it, but the full body of voices can lift anyone;s spirits.  Especially when they start singing various different melodies on top of each other.  It’s quite lovely.

Ages and Ages played near me recently and I thought about seeing them and then I realized that this is the only song I know by them!

[READ: January 2, 2017] “How Can I Help?”

This is a story about a woman and her sister.  But the way the story is revealed is really wonderful.

It begins: “Consider Hayley, our hire of two months, a relative endurance run.”

The narrator bemoans Hayley’s decisions, like spending $4.25 (roughly 31 minutes of work at her salary) each day on a skim latte coffee from an unnamed retailer even though their office offers the same coffee in-house for free.

In the second paragraph, she says “I like and admire Hayley, she is a team player.  I don’t judge.  But I have of late been tempted to judge.”

And that’s when she reveals that perhaps her objectivity is clouded because Hayley is her sister. (more…)

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